Last night I attended North East Kent European marine site stakeholder meeting held by the Thanet Coast project. The meeting reviewed all the progress made throughout the year and all the projects for the forthcoming year.
The subject of shellfish harvesting on the Thanet foreshore by groups of people from outside the area was raised by the Cliftonville coastal wardens. The concern was not about the shell harvesting itself but the quantities being taken by groups of people who are just taking everything irrespective of size or specie which is having an noticeable impact on some areas. One warden reported a 80% depletion of Limpets in his survey area.
It was explained that commercial shellfish harvesting was regulated and mechanical shellfish harvesting on the foreshore was illegal. There are a few people that have foreshore commercial licenses to harvest shellfish by hand, but I think it is for winkles something that has gone on for many years and they are governed by the size of the winkle to make it commercially viable.
Shellfish harvesting for own consumption is not illegal provided the shellfish are for own consumption and the shellfish are not sold. This may also have something to do with environmental health regulations.
In my opinion, I feel that shellfish regulations are based on need rather than greed and local people do observe that. It really is a matter of concern that groups of people are taking far more than they need, even for their group size. They are taking everything irrespective of size and stripping areas bare which shows very little regard for the environment. The limpet population in some areas is being decimated and this is a indigenous species.
On the other hand we have invasive species in which the population is thriving like the Pacific rock oyster, then there is the migrating Velvet swimmer crab from further down the English Channel which die in large quantities every winter. This winters casualty list for Velvet swimmer crabs for the Thanet coast was estimated at 40,000. Both species suffer in wintry conditions
Perhaps the whole subject of shellfish harvesting should be reviewed as there is scope to allow somethings to be taken and others should remain. Perhaps zones should be considered, licenses issued, any thoughts ?